From the Other Side: Throwing Bullets and Finishing at the Rim | Wizards Blog Truth About

From the Other Side: Throwing Bullets and Finishing at the Rim

Updated: January 2, 2017

Truth About It is a blog that primarily focuses on all things Washington Wizards. We have media credentials and that access allows for up-close coverage of games, practices, and other activities, irreverent and otherwise. But occasionally we use our access to explore what is going on with the opposing team the Wizards are facing. We call this segment, “From The Other Side,” and in today’s installment, @TroyHalibur focuses on how the Brooklyn Nets and their adjustments were no match for the Washington Wizards during their 118-95 blowout victory.

The Wizards finally reached the .500 mark by thrashing a pseudo-NBA team in the Brooklyn Nets should not take away from the luster surrounding this team, considering they can only beat the teams on their schedule. The Nets loss to the Wizards marked their 28th consecutive road loss against Eastern Conference opponents. Even with Bradley Beal sitting with a sprained ankle, the Wizards were still eight point favorites. Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson knew that if his team had any chance of winning that they would have to put forth a miraculous effort of slowing down John Wall. Atkinson described the Nets planned pick-and-roll coverage and the in-game adjustments that his team made in his post game press conference:

“I thought John Wall, he creates havoc and created havoc in the pick-and-roll, he was open and then we started sucking in and helping on their roller and he was throwing bullets out there. When he’s scoring the ball like that, which he was in the pick-and-roll and we didn’t do a great job in the pick-and-roll but he had his scoring going. Then you try to really get in there and try to show a crowd against him, he was finding shooters. [Trey] Burke really gave him a huge [lift], hitting those threes and now you’re playing the cat and mouse game, ‘Do you get in? Do you just stay out?’ It’s a great game by John Wall and they shot the heck out of it.”

John Wall’s ability to score the basketball almost single handily foiled the Nets’ gameplan, and as Atkinson said, “We changed our pick-and-roll coverage in the third quarter, I thought it helped us. We forced seven turnovers and became more aggressive doubling the ball, but that wasn’t enough.” When the Nets forced the ball out of Wall’s hands and dared one of the NBA’s best passers to make plays for his teammates, the game turned into a dunk contest for the Wizards in the second half.

The main benefactor of those passes was Marcin Gortat, who went into Friday night’s game just 9 of 17 on dunk attempts for the season. He had five dunks in the second half of the game and he appeared to gain confidence as the game progressed.

It wasn’t just Gortat’s dunks that impacted the game, but Coach Atkinson was even more complimentary of Gortat’s screening ability:

“He’s a very good player. Great screener. One of the best screeners in the league and you say ‘why does John have a lot of those open shots’ well Gortat is screening. On our side of the ball we better do a better job of shedding those screens, avoiding screens but again I’ve seen it. Seen it multiple times. He does a great job screening. He’s a tough guy. He plays hard.”

Gortat is building a solid reputation for himself as being the best screener in basketball, and the Wizards recent success can be attributed to the players taking full advantage of the big man’s nimbleness on the floor. Usually it is Beal running opposing players around until they run into the wall that is a Gortat screen, but on this day it was Trey Burke who took full advantage of an increased opportunity.

Burke had his best game in a Wizards uniform by far, scoring 27 points on 10-12 shooting from the field and 5-5 from beyond the 3-point line. I asked Burke about his confidence in his game lately because of a receiving more consistent minutes and he relished the opportunity to step up in Beal’s absence.

When Scott Brooks was asked about Burke’s breakout performance, he seemed just as surprised as anyone else in the arena:

“I wish I could take credit for some of the rotations, but Trey just had an amazing night. We were just hoping that somebody would come in and give us 10-12 points, and to my surprise, it was 27. I know Trey can score, but you don’t expect 27. I thought he played an excellent ballgame, both sides of the floor – I thought he was defensively really good.”

Jason Smith also continued his streak of consistent play (10 points and 8 rebounds in just 18 minutes, and the Wizards bench led by Burke and Smith scored a season high 50 points. Without the services of Bradley Beal, the Wizards’ bench–one of the worst units in the league (with a scoring average of 24.3 points per game, second to last in the NBA) rose to the occasion and allowed the Wizards to beat a team that should not be seriously contesting them, regardless of any circumstance. As maligned as the Wizards bench has been all season (mostly deserving), the one thing that can not be questioned about them is their effort. The second-unit has played extremely hard all season, despite their clear talent deficit and lack of continuity — for that, they should be applauded.


Final Note

  • The Wizards have won eight games in a row at the Verizon Center and we can only assume that some of that success at home has to do with the buzzing atmosphere created by the D.C. faithful. Maybe this recent spike in attendance and crowd involvement has to do with all of the free time fans have over the holiday season, or maybe the Wizards organization is finding a groove at being more proactive in getting fans involved. Two weeks ago it was Wizards Social Media Night and last night the Wizards kicked off their post-game concert series with performances from R&B singers Johnny Gill and Tank.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.